Thursday, January 20, 2011

Brody on The Hurt Locker

Richard Brody's interesting argument about The Hurt Locker, which I enjoyed watching last night, confident that I'd be off school today (as indeed I was, thanks to six or so inches of snow):

Sure, the bomb-planters come off as monsters. But the movie’s wider implications emerge with the recognition that the world is full of monsters—but that it would be self-destructive for the United States to assume the right and the responsibility to rid the world of them (and would also suggest precisely the kind of war-addiction that the movie dramatizes). So, yes, “The Hurt Locker” is definitely a liberal movie—especially in the general sense of suggesting that wisdom and justice consist in learning to accept the existence of evil. But it’s a very particular kind of liberal movie: it suggests that the United States faces dangers that are indeed self-destructive; the question of Iraqis and their well-being is secondary to the story. It is, in effect, a liberal movie without guilt; and, I think, this fact accounts, at least in part, for its widespread acclaim.


aintstudyingyou said...

When the Hurt Locker ended, I told my friend, "This is the worst movie I have ever seen--by which I mean, it was the best." I was immediately captured by the danger and suspense and found myself squirming, wincing, and thinking "No, no, no, no, no."

I am reminded of the narrator's claim in _Sula_, that the black people of the bottom make no attempts to eradicate evil. They survive it, as they do the uncontrollable extremities of the weather.

I am having trouble, though, understanding the definition of liberalism into which the film fits. Its primary effect on me was to make me feel with and like the characters. My sense is that a greater amount of distance is necessary to view the film as an allegory of a liberal or conservative view of geopolitics. A little help here?

framiko said...

Well, I think Brody explains his argument about the film's liberalism more clearly in the full post. What I found most interesting, though, was his idea that the movie offers a liberalism without guilt. It avoids the Manichaeanism of the neo-cons who designed the war—the stark divisions of the world into good guys and bad guys. It thereby also declines to bash us over the head with a tendentious anti-war message.

As you say, the main effect of the film is to draw us into the lives of its three main characters. Seeing the things from their perspectives, we can understand some of the complexities of the war (including America's failures) without coming away feeling we've been scolded for two hours.